By Ron VandenBoom
The H. Earl Clack Museum took advantage of the nice weather Wednesday to move the old Great Northern Caboose from its old home at the Hill County Fairgrounds to a new home at the Heritage Center.
Donating their time and equipment to the project were crews from the BNSF Car Shop in Havre, along with Tom Patrick and a crew from Patrick Construction, who provided the trucks.
The move required the use of two mobile cranes supplied by BNSF Division Superintendent Bob Stender and three trucks.
Ray Moran, car foreman at the Havre Car Shop, and a crew of crane operators and ground men that form what Moran called the wrecking cr ew, met early at the fairgrounds to move the caboose.
The term wrecking crew, Moran explained, comes from the fact the same crew is responsible for picking up cars that have been through derailments or wrecks.
We had to pick it up and drag it out of the trees up there at the fairgrounds and then Tom Patrick backed one of his trucks underneath it, Moran said.
The caboose, wheels, and rail were each placed on a separate truck for the move to the Heritage Center.
Patrick said he has moved a lot of railroad cars in the past off of derailments, but then he did not have to deal with downtown traffic and close-quarter operations.
Maneuvering the caboose into position at the Heritage Center, so it could be unloaded, was the most difficult and time-consuming part of the project. At one point, the entire trailer had to be lifted by the crane and moved into a position where it could be backed up.
Only minor damage was done to the caboose while it was being unloaded.
Myrna Whitelaw, building supervisor at the Heritage Center, said plans for the caboose may include its use as a coffee bar and sandwich shop. However, no plans for the caboose have been finalized, she said, and no time frame has been set.
Plans also exist to have the caboose painted and for some renovation to take place.
Roberta Demarest has volunteered her time to the moving and renovation of the caboose. She said that she has contacted MSU-Northern, BNSF, and du Pont Corporation to help supply the paint, labor, and parts to restore the caboose.